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UN calls for Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council called Saturday for a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centered on the Gaza Strip. A council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The statement calls for "the reinstitution of the November 2012 cease-fire" brokered by Egypt, but gives no time frame for when it should take effect. Palestinian U.N. envoy, Riyad Mansour, said the Palestinians' understanding is that the cease-fire should go into effect immediately. He said the Palestinians will be watching closely to see if the Israelis respond to the council's call, stressing that if they don't "we have a lot of tools in our arsenal." The press statement, which is not legally binding but reflects international opinion, is the first response by the U.N.'s most powerful body, which has been deeply divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States, Israel's most important ally, has defended the Israeli attacks in response to the barrage of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. But other council members have decried the Israeli attacks which Mansour said have killed or injured more than 1,000 Palestinians. There have been no fatalities in Israel from the continued rocket fire. The council statement does not directly mention either the Hamas rocketing or the Israeli response. Instead, it expresses "serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides" and calls for "respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians."

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